STYLEGUIDE sits down to have a chat with Vincent Ooi, founder of fashion label Source Collections, to find out what got him started.
STYLEGUIDE: How did you get started initially and what inspired you to do what you do?
Vincent: In late 2008, I’ve had the opportunity to relocate to Hong Kong and to work with numerous global watch and jewellery brands to develop and produce their collection. Since then, I’ve always had this idea to start a label of my own.
Having lived in Hong Kong for more than 8 years, I then decided that it was time to move back to Singapore to pursue my passion and to do something more fulfilling.
With the knowledge and contacts gained through my past experiences, most would have assumed that I would create a watch & jewellery brand, but apparel was something that was always in my mind. And while the fashion industry is highly saturated in Asia, we couldn’t find a label that offers premium basics at an affordable price.
I was greatly inspired by the ethos behind the label Honestby by Bruno Pieters and its concept of 100% transparency. I wanted people to know more about the industry, where the product is made, the actual cost, how it’s made, and who are the people behind these amazing work. We know of designers, but how much do we know about the process and people who spend hours cutting and sewing up our favourite pieces?
STYLEGUIDE: What makes Source Collections unique?
Vincent: Transparency – sharing with people where our products are made and the actual cost of making them. We are not the first to adopt transparency in business. More and more brands in America and Europe are focusing on transparency and in Asia, we have such a strong influence and control of manufacturing and I believe that if we took the initiative too, it would change everything.
STYLEGUIDE: What were some of the biggest challenges you've faced?
Vincent: That things don’t always go as planned or the way we want it to be – despite the fact that we might have invested a large amount of time and effort into it.
When we first started working on the brand, we had set aside a budget and a timeline of when we would like to have the brand launch. But issues kept arising one after the other – more financial capital injection was required, issues that caused the delay of the brand launch month after month which really strained the business since there was no income until after the brand launches.
Eventually, it took a great deal of patience, learning and hard decisions that we had to make before we could finally launch the brand.
STYLEGUIDE: What is your main driving force?
Vincent: Growth and Contribution.
How we ought to continuously learn and grow regardless of the age or experience that we’ve had. With the massive amount of data and information that’s easily accessible within the click of a button as well as the speed of advancement in the modern technology of today, there’s never an end to what we can learn and grow to be.
And through all these learning and things that we do, how we could eventually contribute back to the society or people around us - even in the simplest way like sharing our knowledge and experiences with the younger generation, being open to lend a helping hand to those who need them or to help raise awareness on the issues of the world today.
When combined, these two elements make us feel fulfilled and whole.
STYLEGUIDE: Can you share your greatest inspiration in life?
Vincent: One of my greatest inspiration in life has got to be Steve Jobs.
Jobs once said - “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
STYLEGUIDE: What would you say is your purpose in life?
Vincent: I believe there’s no one sole purpose in life.
Our purpose and priority will change and evolve as we enter the different stages of our life.
When we are young, our main purpose was to study hard, to learn and hopefully, grow to be more responsible and not let our parents worry too much about us.
After our studies, we take our first step into the working society and try to learn and gain as much knowledge and experiences as we can to grow. After a year or two, most of us would start pondering about the purpose of our life and what we would like to do or to achieve.
At this point of my life, I really hope to focus and grow Source Collections, not only to be a known label here in Singapore, but also a platform where people will get to know about the story behind each product – how the products are made, where it’s made, the people behind them and how our choices as a consumer could actually impact the environment and the lives of others.
Going forward, I hope to be able to share the things I’ve learned, my knowledge and life experiences with people and hopefully, inspire or help them in any small ways. That would be the most satisfying to me.
STYLEGUIDE: What is the change or impact that you want to make in this world?
Vincent: To change the mind set of people to “buy lesser, and buy better”.
How we buy things today has changed dramatically over the past 20 – 30 years. We buy more things than we actually need mainly because of the attractive low price tag or the exceptional “discount” that we think we’re getting.
Ultimately, we need to breakaway from this addiction and understand the impact that our cheap bargains have on the social and environmental issues of today.
STYLEGUIDE: What does success mean to you and what is the greatest success you’ve experienced?
Vincent: To pursue your passion and achieve what you set out to do.
The greatest success that I’ve experienced so far was finally launching Source Collections after more than a year of hard work and receiving amazing responses and feedback from our customers who tell us how much they love our products, who return to purchase more and even take the effort to help us spread our story to their family and friends.
STYLEGUIDE: What would you say was the single most influential factor in your success?
Vincent: My parents and my ex-boss in Hong Kong, Eric Chevillard, whom I refer to as my mentor today.
Since young, my parents had taught us to work hard and stay humble. Nothing comes easy in life, and if we want to achieve something that’s sustainable, we will always have to put in effort and work hard for it.
And my mentor for guiding me and granting me the opportunity to explore new things whenever I wanted to. I had the freedom of speaking to him openly and freely to discuss ideas and what I hope to learn and do. From there, I got to know myself better, what I’d like to do, what I’m good at and what I am not.
STYLEGUIDE: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Vincent: Know when it’s time to take a step back and rest.
During the initial years when I first started working in Hong Kong, I spent most of my time in the office working from the early hours till late at night. Even during the weekends, all that I had in mind was work. And because I spent most of my time at work, I didn’t have much of a social life and eventually ended the relationship with my then-girlfriend.
While my career was progressing well, my mental & physical health started to deteriorate. I wasn’t happy, I couldn't work as effectively and efficiently as I used to, and soon I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease (a form of hearing loss) where there’s no known cure.
That was a wake up call for me as I realise that there is so much more to life. Work-life balance is necessary and we all need to strike a balance between “business time, family time and me time”. Areas which, if not balanced, will negatively influence our ability to do what we hope to achieve.
STYLEGUIDE: What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
Vincent: For business - to grow Source Collections into a label where it’s known for good quality and affordable prices, and through that, to raise awareness and build a community to bring people together and explore ways to help the less fortunate. Personally – to be able to spend more time with my family, friends and loved ones and lastly, to improve my guitar skills.
"Sometimes the biggest change can be achieved with the collective efforts of small individual actions. We’ve taken a step towards making a difference with our products and hope to constantly keep developing and minimising the impact we have on the planet- one step at a time.
Take your step, shop responsibly." ~ Source Collections